Popplewell joined Hallenstein Brothers 45 years ago as an office junior while completing university, none the wiser that he would go on to lead the company one day.
Over that period, he worked his way up in the company to become Hallenstein Brothers' managing director in 2010.
His time at the helm of both the Glassons and Hallenstein brands has seen him help weather the company through enormous changes - most notably, the surge in ecommerce.
Popplewell spoke proudly of what the company had achieved with its own ecommerce offering.
"The past five years have seen an unprecedented change in retail with the explosion of ecommerce and the globalisation of so many brands. It’s been intense and we’ve had to reinvent the business to successfully meet the changing market,” he said.
“Today we have a world class ecommerce offer that is growing at more than 30 percent every year and becoming a significant part of the business.”
He predicted major technological changes in the next five years in retail, as consumer expectations evolve. He also said he didn't expect retail to get any easier.
“We need to be equal to any international retailer to be able to compete. It’s not just about one element – it’s everything – product, marketing, the stores, and finding the right people to lead your brands.”
Popplewell is credited with the reinvention of Hallensteins and Glassons during his time at the company.
He was there for Hallensteins' merger with Glassons in 1985 and helped the company grow vastly in size - going from 40 stores to over 120 today, including 30 Glassons stores in Australia.
The brand Storm was also launched under his guidance in 2005, which now has 10 stores around the country.
Chairman Warren Bell said Popplewell will remain on the board as a non-executive director once he steps down.
“Graeme leaves the business in a strong position, with current group sales running 11 percent above the previous year," Bell said.
"Glassons, in particular, is showing strong results. These trends are a reflection of Graeme’s strong stewardship during his time leading Hallenstein Glasson. We’re pleased that his huge knowledge of the business will not be lost following his decision to remain on the board.”
The company has begun an international hunt for a new chief executive, he said.